In 2013, he started the collaboration with the consortium on seed potato quality innovations for small scale farmers in Burundi supported by PAEPARD. In this interview, Anton Haverkort is sharing his experience for the benefit EU researchers and non-research actors and provide lessons learned for EFARD.
Connecting the right person at the right time
Anton Haverkort joined the consortium at a critical stage. The project proposal had received a partial rejection from the Dutch Applied Research Fund (ARF) and urgently needed a scientific Dutch organisation to fulfil the requirement of the call. At this time, Agriterra, a union of Dutch farmers, and a member of the consortium, contacted Anton Haverkort, knowing his professional career as a researcher with high interest in potatoes and his extensive experience in Africa, notably in Rwanda.
photo credit: Anton Haverkort
Haverkort said “I knew the people, and I knew Burundi well because I visited the country many times when I lived in Rwanda between 1980 and 1985” and he added “I also like the idea of travelling in Africa”. With his passion and experience, he said “I looked at the proposal reviewed it and after a first rejection we finally got the ARF funding”.
A researcher is part of the innovation process
Anton Haverkort‘s role in this project was to provide the scientific knowledge and expertise on potato seed production and to develop on-farm trials. The trials were used to test 6 technologies to demonstrate how farmers in rural areas can improve potato quality seed using small plot techniques. “With on –farm trials farmers could see it from their own eyes” said Anton Harverkort. He explains that through this research, farmers have gained new skills, “the whole group learned how to do farm trials using a systematic and scientific approach”.
To him, the diversity of actors in the consortium was crucial to put the results of this research into use. He said “ISABU and WUR brought the scientific part and CAPAD made the link to the producers”. In fact, many development activities were implemented during this research project to increase research adoption and dissemination. For instance, Farmer Field School (FFS) approach in collaboration with producer members of several cooperatives was implemented. Training manuals were developed and used to train, through Training of Trainers (ToT) sessions, various actors including farmers, extension workers and administrative officers.
Communication challenges in a politically unstable country
To him, the real challenge occurred during the project implementation phase. “We were able to meet two times in Burundi but due to security issues in the country we faced a lot of challenges” he said. The only option for the consortium was to meet in a neighbouring country. Finally, the consortium met in Kampala city in Uganda and continued their collaboration.
No core funding for research but important opportunity!
“With a small amount of money we could achieve a lot.”
For a research centre, like Wageningen University and Research, with no core funding, the funds made available through the Dutch ARF is seen as ‘minor’. The conditions do not allow the recovery of the total cost of a researcher’s involvement in the project. However, Anton Haverkort noted “funding was not a real constraint for me to participate in this project as I had many other projects at the same time”. He said “although it was a small funding opportunity, our (WUR) contribution was very important”.
“I think this project was exceptional” said Anton. In 2 years, the consortium was able to implement the research project and to write a scientific paper which is about to be published in a peer-reviewed journal. This was possible because “CAPAD was very professional, from the beginning they were very well organised” he said. Anton was very impressed by the skills of this farmers’ organisation. He said “I will always remember how every “comma” was executed”. For him, the CAPAD experience should serve as an example for empowering other farmer organisations which appears essential for future collaboration between researchers and farmer organisations in Agricultural Research and Innovation to achieve greater development impact.
Dr. Anton Haverkort is a plant scientist who has dedicated a significant part of his career to research on potatoes. Anton Haverkort started his career in 1975 at the International Potato Center in Peru (CIP), where he worked for more than 10 years to improve potato production through agronomy, breeding and crop protection. In 1987, he joined Wageningen University and Research and over the years, coordinated several potato research projects until his retirement on January 1, 2017. He has travelled to many countries, including Peru, Rwanda, Tunisia and Turkey to develop joint potato research projects and undertake consultancy assignments.
In 2011, the Confederation of Agricultural Producers’ Associations for Development in Burundi (CAPAD), was selected by PAEPARD to receive financial support to develop a research project on “Participatory development of potato growing technologies and promotion of gender and environmentally-friendly innovations in Burundi”. PAEPARD financial support was used to facilitate the establishment of the multi-stakeholder research and innovation partnership (inception workshop) and help the consortium in preparing research proposals (writeshops) for mobilising additional funding.
In 2013, the consortium was re-configured, including ITEC representing the private sector, and submitted a project proposal on “Development of potato seed quality based innovations for small scale farmers in the three provinces surrounding Bujambura town in Burundi” to the Applied Research Fund (ARF), financed by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and NWO-WOTRO Science for Global Development. The project was selected and received funding for a period of 3 years (2014-2017).
Dr Anton Haverkort, European researcher, involved in this project has accepted to share his experience in this multi-stakeholder African-EU research and innovation partnership with EFARD in the following interview.
Dr. Anton Haverkort shares his experience in the PAEPARD Irish potatoes consortium
photo credit: Anton Haverkort
Consortium- ARF project
Confédération des Associations des Producteurs Agricoles pour le Dévéloppement (CAPAD)
Wageningen University, Department of Plant Sciences (WUR)
Institut des Sciences Agronomiques du Burundi (ISABU)
Innovative Technology development for Rural
Entrepreneurship Center (ITEC)
Learn more about
The research project
Farmer Field School (FFS) approach